Memory Problems Before Dementia
5 Money Problems That Might Foreshadow Dementia
Problems managing money seem to be among the earliest and most reliable warning signs of Alzheimer's disease. Although people tend to fixate on worries about memory loss, a growing body of research suggests that financial mistakes and challenges might be the better clues to look for.
Declining money skills are evident in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in the year prior to the onset of Alzheimer's disease, says Daniel Marson, a professor of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who has done several studies on financial capacity and memory loss.
The following five money problems can signal mild dementia. This is especially true if these money problems are changes for the person or are happening with increasing frequency. It's always a good idea to have concerns about cognitive health checked out by a physician, psychologist, or memory clinic.
Money warning sign #1: Trouble counting change
What to look for: Is your loved one hesitating when paying in cash? Paying too much or too little? Opening his or her wallet and inviting the cashier to "take what you need"? These are common events when it becomes challenging to distinguish among the different bill or coin denominations or the person can't reliably do the necessary math in his or her head. It's easy to confuse nickels and quarters, but your loved one may even mix up dimes and quarters, or fives and twenties.
What you can do: In stores, you can help him or her save face (and cash) by casually offering to pay yourself: "Here, I've got it." Ideally, he or she should avoid carrying a lot of large bills or should use a debit card for purchases, drawn on an account that doesn't have a large available balance.
Money warning sign #2: Mistakes writing checks or balancing a checkbook
What to look for: Your loved one may write the date or amount on the wrong lines or leave off information completely, such as forgetting to sign the check. The amount written in numerals may not match the amount written longhand.
Balancing the checkbook is either ignored completely (after a history of faithfully doing so) or a process riddled with math errors. Some people having trouble look visibly flustered or accuse the bank of making mistakes. Others cover up blunders -- or are oblivious to them.
What you can do: Safeguards are important because managing a checkbook improperly can lead to overdraft fines and make a person vulnerable to scams (writing checks to fraudulent charities, for example). A great safety valve: having a second person become a cosigner on the checking account, so that two signatures are needed to complete a transaction. And every month when the bank statement arrives or is made available online, someone should review it to look out for math errors, overdraft fees, or suspicious check recipients.